What this shows me is that neither the scientist nor Ecklund properly understands what universities are all about. An important component of the role of universities is the creation of a space where what seem like commonsense ideas - handed down through socialisation and tradition - can be held up to the light and challenged. One thing that we want from academics, especially in fields such as philosophy, is the capacity and courage to attack popular ideas, including popular ideas of morality. This kind of intellectual critique, which may involve the development of unpopular critiques of how ordinary people think, is one way that we make progress as a society.
Accommodationist thinkers in the style of Ecklund or, say, Chris Mooney, want to reverse this. The idea is to market a product, such as science, by showing how it is safe for people to consume without it challenging their existing worldviews (which may be based on religion or traditional morality). People with various existing worldviews are taken as demographics, and the idea is to market science to them.
But science and scholarship are dangerous - not necessarily in the sense of creating physical risks, but in the sense that they can lead to ideas that undermine received wisdom. Universities are places where dangerous ideas, in this sense, are created, refined, and tested in debate. To suggest otherwise, and adopt the marketing strategy favoured by accommodationists, is profoundly ignorant and anti-intellectual.
The example given by the scientist in Ecklund's passage is Peter Singer:
Mentioning perhaps Singer's most extreme view, he said that Singer has "been saying infanticide is acceptable under some circumstances. I mean maybe an academic can justify that, because he can write that in a fancy paragraph. But to any level-headed human being, it doesn't matter what kind of paragraph you write. It's simply wrong and that's the end of it."I have to laugh at an academic, of all people, complaining about someone writing "a fancy paragraph" - I wonder what someone who thinks in such an anti-intellectual way is even doing in the academy.
But setting that aside ... there goes the entire sub-discipline of moral philosophy. If we are not allowed to challenge what "any level-headed human being" supposedly knows, we might as well go out of business. Ecklund doesn't even notice what a stupid understanding of the role of universities this scientist has, which makes me wonder about her own understanding of it. Does Ecklund "get" academia at all?